Mamata Banerjee expresses anguish over death of elephants in West Bengal

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New Delhi, Sep 24 (ANI): Expressing deep anguish at the tragic killing of seven elephants in West Bengal, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday said her Ministry will be conducting a joint strategy with the Ministry of Environment and Forests to prevent recurrence of such incidents in the near future.

"I express my deep anguish over the unfortunate incident of death of seven elephants on rail track in North Bengal. Railways have already been in touch with the Ministry of Environment and Forests to identify specific elephant corridors and to exercise caution in train operations," said Banerjee.

"I understand that this unfortunate incident took place in an area other than the identified elephant corridors. I have asked Railway Board to work out a joint strategy with the Ministry of Environment and Forests to prevent such incidents," she added.

Banerjee said the accident site is not the notified elephant corridor identified by the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

"In that area, between Alipurduar - Siliguri section, there are only four notified elephant corridors namely Gulma - Sivok, Chalsa-Nagarkaata, Madarihat-Hasimara and Hasimara-Kalchini where drivers are issued permanent caution order to restrict speed to maximum of 50 kilometer per hour, with constant whistling in the section and to be extra vigilant," said Banerjee.

"Moreover, Railways did not get any advance information from Forest Officials regarding unusual movement of elephants in and around that non-notified elephant section. Therefore, drivers of the goods train were not aware of the elephants' movement. It appears that the elephants came far away from forest area and the movement pattern was beyond the area identified by Ministry of Environment and Forests," she added.

Banerjee further said the Railways are committed to the protection of elephants, which is the national heritage animal of the country.

"The Ministry of Railways has always been in touch with the Ministry of Environment and Forests to discuss and devise ways and means to avoid killing of elephants on Railway tracks. A joint advisory was prepared and finalized on 31st March, 2010 following inter-ministerial deliberations between the two Ministries," said Banerjee.

"According to this joint general advisory, it was decided that Ministry of Environment and Forests will engage elephant trackers equipped with mobile phone/walkies to receive/pass on information regarding presence of elephant herds around track length. Railways on its part has already issued standing instructions to Station Masters that whenever any information is received regarding movement of elephants, caution orders be issued to drivers for observing utmost care (speed restriction, whistling etc.) while driving in the section," she added.

Seven elephants of a herd died after being hit by a goods train in the Banarhat area of Jalpaiguri district on Wednesday night.

While four were killed on the spot, the rest died on Thursday. (ANI)

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